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Help with big purchase for newbie! :-)

lstevenslstevens Member Posts: 24
edited April 2016 in THE MAIN WALL
Hi, this is Laura from Boston. I just found forum, first post.
My boiler cracked :-(
It is a Gas/Steam Boiler. House is 4 stories, 4390 SF with Steam Radiators (standing and baseboard) and some vents. Built in 1895, has relatively poor insulation. HomeServe came and measured the Radiators to Spec the Boiler. Recommended a Burnham IN-6 (175K BTU) to replace the failing (35year old) Utica (263K BTU). I have 2 questions regarding this transaction. I welcome your informed opinion.
1) Sizing: ONLY the radiators were measured for the sizing. He made no other measurements other than referring to a small notebook/guide with drawings of radiators in it. I am concerned about the discrepancy of the old 263K BTU with the newly specced 175K BTU, especially in view of the poor insulation (difficult to improve in this house) and the large (4390 SF) house. Do you think it is possible that this is correct or should I be concerned? Some have told me that even IF it is undersized, it would only "underheat" the house on a few of the coldest days of the year (which I wouldn't mind), and actually be more efficient the other times. Do you think it is likely undersized? Should I be concerned? If so, what should I do?
2) Reliability: I have found many questionable reviews of the Burnham Independence Series online. Do you think this line is a good choice for quality, longevity, warranty, etc? Do you have alternate brand (similar to this one) that you like better?

Thanks for any help! -Laura :-)
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Comments

  • SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 14,197
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
  • lstevenslstevens Member Posts: 24
    Yes!
  • nicholas bonham-carternicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,356
    The fact that he measured the radiators heat value, (known as EDR), is a good sign that the installer knows what he is doing.
    Your old boiler was probably over-sized.
    Following the manufacturers instructions exactly in regard to the piping, is another good sign.
    Make sure he pays attention to the main venting, and not so much the radiator venting at first.
    cleaning the boiler of the oils of installation, (known as skimming), is a time consuming process which you can do yourself. Likewise the pipe insulation, (1 inch fiberglass minimum), could be another DIY project, and must be done.
    I have had good luck with Peerless boilers, but others may have experience, good or bad with Burnham. Most boiler problems are due to faulty installation.--NBC
    lstevens
  • SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 14,197
    lstevens said:

    Yes!

    Home warranty companies such as this, typically hire low-bid subcontractors who may or may not know steam. We've seen the results of this and often they're not pretty.

    At the very least, you need a second opinion. At the top of this page, click on Main Site, then Find a Contractor, and follow the instructions. Some of these guys may charge to come out, but it would be worth it. You certainly don't want to have to do this job twice!
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
    lstevens
  • lstevenslstevens Member Posts: 24
    Well, the Utica WAS 35 years old, so I think it didn't do toooo bad! ;-)
    I'm really new @ this. Last week I couldn't even spell "Boiler". So, any other suggestions or pointers are welcome! Thanx Much! :blush:
  • lstevenslstevens Member Posts: 24
    1 question on their proposal. It says they are not responsible for any chimney repairs or liners; that the customer is responsible. I read somewhere online that Code required them to verify/take care of the chimney/liner if installing a gas boiler?
  • Leon82Leon82 Member Posts: 684
    I believe they mean you are responsible for paying for the repairs. or they will not install until you have someone repair it.

    most contracts will have some wording like this so they don't get a "surprise"
    lstevens
  • lstevenslstevens Member Posts: 24
    Interesting, but they've already done the proposal, and are just waiting for me to schedule an install date. So, are they going to show up on install date with the boiler, and stop installing if they find a problem with the chimney/liner? I don't think they looked at it when they came to size the system.
  • lstevenslstevens Member Posts: 24
    Actually (according to them), they have a large installation organization now, and have actual employees (not contractors) doing the installs. Not saying I necessarily believe them and I will check further. But, at least this is what they claim. I WILL say that the the person who came to do the proposal seemed quite competent. He worked for them as a boiler repairman for 20 years (first for Boston Gas, etc. before Homeserve acquired their service business). When I asked him if HE would be involved in the installation, he allowed that while he has done installations (for himself) in the past, that the installers they would send would be vastly more experienced in installation than he. Again, COULD be all smoke and mirrors, but he seemed sincere and passed an initial "smell test".
  • lstevenslstevens Member Posts: 24
    edited April 2016
    Here are a few I took the other day. I will post some a little later showing the piping more clearly. In the meantime, any recommendations for a "known quantity" steam boiler expert (and fair ;-) ) installer in the Boston area that I can contact for a bid?

    The current bid says "replace and add to existing piping".

    I can't tell you I much I appreciate this help and any suggestions no matter how small.
  • Leon82Leon82 Member Posts: 684
    they will want to see more of the wrapped piping
    lstevens
  • lstevenslstevens Member Posts: 24
    edited April 2016
    Let me know if these are enuff! (The small blue tank next to the boiler is some kind of extra water and/or expansion tank that the plumber put in 35 years ago when he installed this one).

    THANK YOU! (Yes, the pipes ARE wrapped in asbestos (will cost another 2K to have taken out).

    You guys are really making me rethink this, as I think the quote I got (8K for the Burnham IN6 installed) is generous enough to entertain other company proposals.
  • SWEISWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    Almost every jurisdiction will require the portion of the piping that is 'disturbed' be remediated of its asbestos. Remaining portions can be 'encapsulated' to mitigate future risk. The companies that remove asbestos may charge very little more to do the whole basement, since the bulk of the cost is associated with mobilization, setup, monitoring, teardown, and disposal. Some jurisdictions allow removal of 'incidental amounts' with much less regulatory overhead. It's worth researching.
  • BobCBobC Member Posts: 5,172
    We don't discuss boiler install prices because the labor costs vary a lot across the country but I will say we in the Boston area get to pay some of the highest.

    New steam boilers are not as robust as anything installed 35 years ago. The near boiler piping you have now is wrong, the new boiler has to be piped optimally if you want it to last and to save fuel.

    You have to specify both steam outlets are to be used and the boiler header should be one size larger at a minimum for good efficiency and longevity.

    The image I have attached has one outlet for a steam main, you will need three from what I see. The steam risers coming out of the boiler are usually 2" on a Burnham, the header that connects the two boiler risers to the steam mains and the boiler equalizer should be a 3" diameter pipe so that you get nice dry steam (saves fuel). It costs more money to do it right but it's a one time expense that will pay you back every year. That drawing does not show a hartford loop, most boilers need a hartford loop on the equalizer to protect you against loss of boiler water.

    As others have said the quality of the install is very important, find a good steam man and have him quote this. Homeserve will slap something in there that just won't perform the way it should.

    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
    SWEI
  • SWEISWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    edited April 2016
    Dan had a great article on the old site about this, and was kind enough to resurrect it here.

    See also http://www.comfort-calc.net/Steam_Piping_Donts.cfm

    You're somewhat unlikely to get the home warranty company to pay for anything over and above "standard accepted practices." Fortunately for you, the boiler manufacturers all include minimum installation standards in their boiler installation manuals. You can (must, really) hold the insurance carrier and the installer to those requirements.

    You should be able to persuade the installing contractor to upsize the header at a relatively small incremental cost, which is well worth paying for out of your own pocket.
  • lstevenslstevens Member Posts: 24
    I'm convinced, but still welcome any suggestions! :-) Anyone know a good steam man in Boston that I can call to quote this?
  • SWEISWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    edited April 2016
    J A Phinney in Milton (can't figure out how to post a PM link since he had a space in his username.) I believe he sold the business to a younger guy who he was mentoring on the steam stuff.
  • nicholas bonham-carternicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,356
    edited April 2016
    At least with a separate standalone hot water heater, you have time to get this replacement set up properly before the snow flies in December.
    If you do a search here for "water hammer, banging, noisy pipes, high gas bills, freezing, overheated", you will read of the horrors of many incompetent installations. Many times people have paid twice: once to put in the boiler cheaply, and the second time to reinstall another boiler properly!
    You have been fortunate to come here, before the mistakes were made.--NBC
    Actually, with help, you could do it yourself, and join the ranks of the "steam ladies" on this site!
    You should probably measure the radiators yourself, to doublecheck the estimators EDR. Is this one-pipe, or two-pipe steam?
  • KC_JonesKC_Jones Member Posts: 4,560
    Out of curiosity did this person from Homeserve discuss your comfort with the system? Did they ask about it making noises? Ask if the system seemed to be working ok? What type of system is this? One pipe or 2 pipe (how many pipes connected to each rad)? A picture of a typical rad would be helpful. I agree that piping on your existing boiler isn't correct, did they mention that?
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10202744301871904.1073741828.1330391881&type=1&l=c34ad6ee78
  • lstevenslstevens Member Posts: 24
    The house is very old, built in late 1800's. Big Radiators seem to have two pipes. Small have one (pics attached). There are also baseboard radiators in some rooms, and vents in others.

    No, he didn't ask much about how the old system was (I know, not a good sign). Interestingly, the old system did pretty well.

    Their proposal specifically states that they will connect the new boiler to existing piping (again, you guys have educated me that this is not good).
  • SWEISWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    Connecting to existing distribution piping is required.

    Connecting to existing near-boiler piping will not meet the boiler manufacturer's minimum installation requirements.
  • BobCBobC Member Posts: 5,172
    It's in your best interests to have better than minimum installation piping, do it once and do it right.

    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • lstevenslstevens Member Posts: 24
    Yes, agreed. I have learned (from you guys) that, at best, HomeServe will do a minimally adequate job. I am in the process of getting a "steam person" in for another opinion/quote. In the meantime, any pointers/suggestions are welcome and appreciated! <3:)
  • SWEISWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    If the "steam person" is someone other than the names mentioned above, please let us know. It's a truly unfortunate situation, but if nobody here actually knows them we'd really like to see some photos of their work before you sign anything.

    Again, the insurance will pay for work that meets the boiler manufacturer's minimum standards as long as you make them. The additional cost for "above and beyond" should be all that you have to shoulder.
  • lstevenslstevens Member Posts: 24
    Which insurance you are referring to?
  • Leon82Leon82 Member Posts: 684
    edited April 2016
    Are you replacing this as a home warranty claim or just paying out of pocket and they are the first company you called

    For example the home warranty would only pay for code minimum most likely. Other "upgrades" would be your responsibility.
  • BobCBobC Member Posts: 5,172
    This is an old boiler that developed a leak, the cost will be completely on the owner.

    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • SWEISWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    edited April 2016
    Somehow I was under the impression the home warranty company would be covering at least a portion of this.
  • lstevenslstevens Member Posts: 24
    No prob SWEI. You probably thought that because I first contacted a "home warranty" type company for the job. But your suggestions (and others) have been very helpful! :-)
  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Member Posts: 7,910
    Your small radiators with 1 pipe probably have a vent on the opposite end. Do the larger rad with 2 pipes connected have a vent on the other end also?

    Did your boiler leak water onto the floor? Or did you have steam coming from the chimney in the winter? Who said it is cracked?
  • lstevenslstevens Member Posts: 24
    Yes, small radiators have vents, the large ones, no.
    The boiler started needing water to be added daily. The tech that came to check on the problem opened the bottom of the boiler and observed/showed the crack.
  • pecmsgpecmsg Member Posts: 1,728
    You're lucky its not the middle of the winter.
    Take your time and choose wisely, The name on the truck is more important then the name on the box.

    Get Dans book " The lost art of steam heating" good read with tons of information for you.
    SWEIJUGHNE
  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Member Posts: 7,910
    If the "bottom" of the boiler had a crack it seems there would be water on the floor if you had to add water daily.

    A simple test to confirm a leak is to flood the boiler up to the header or riser pipes. That is to over fill the boiler and wait for water to show up on the floor. You may not want to have this done until the heating season has passed, which may be soon.

    Do you have any return pipes under the basement floor or hiding such that they cannot be seen perhaps in a crawl space?
  • lstevenslstevens Member Posts: 24
    Will try that test and see what happens.
    One question: One contractor I spoke with about doing an estimate/second opinion told me that if I did business with him, I would need an electrician to hook up the electrical part of the boiler if I hired him (he estimated electrician would charge about $600 for this, so not trivial). Does it make sense to need an electrician where I am just replacing a standard steam boiler with a replacement? I thought it was all microvolts. I believe that Homeserve was going to hook up the electrical part themselves (without an electrician). What is normal procedure and what is advised for this?
  • nicholas bonham-carternicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,356
    Good question.
    Many boilers come in 2 flavors as far as the wiring goes-24 volts, and 120 volts.
    Time to do a DIY, and learn all these elements!
    Do a search for Vaporvac, to see how she handled everything.--NBC
  • SWEISWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    Modern boilers need 120V power of some sort, though in some jurisdictions that is considered incidental work which can be done without a permit.
  • lstevenslstevens Member Posts: 24
    I was under the impression that most contractors who do boiler installs do the routine electrical connections. (Seems even the Homeserve crew [who are off my list] were going to do it themselves).
  • New England SteamWorksNew England SteamWorks Member Posts: 1,397
    Officially, MA code states that everything from the Firematic switch in the ceiling above the boiler forward may be worked on. Everything before the Firematic back to the breaker panel requires an electrician's license. Do you have an emergency "stairway" switch in your home? If not, one is required, and this could be what the discussion is about. That switch is a bit of a grey area.


    New England SteamWorks
    Service, Installation, & Restoration of Steam Heating Systems
    newenglandsteamworks.com
  • BobCBobC Member Posts: 5,172
    edited April 2016
    I'm having a mini-split heat pump installed for a small fortune and after picking myself off the floor because of the cost. I was informed it would cost $750 extra to get that unit hooked up to AC power. I shot the salesman a withering glance and he told me I could provide a disconnect on the outside of the house myself and they would use that.

    I've worked as an industrial electrician in the past so I have no problems doing this kind of work. It took me about 30 minutes to string 30 ft of wire in the basement, install a 2 pole circuit breaker in my panel and put an approved disconnect on the wall outside.

    I am also having the house sided and I was quoted a good price by a respected contractor and I told him I wanted the siding under the electric feed coming down the side of the house. He told me he has an electrician on call and that was included in the price he quoted me

    I have no problem paying a tradesman for his time and expertise but some companies can never get quite enough out of your hide. I suggest you get someone else to tie the boiler into your system for you at a more reasonable cost.

    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • Leon82Leon82 Member Posts: 684
    I had a roofer pull that. They didn't replace the boot on the electrical pipe because they weren't electricians.

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